Tuesday, February 22, 2022

SACRIFICES: The Rules System I'm Developing


It can be said that most if not all classic TTPGs are based around resource management.

    The OSR has codified this in the myriad of rules that govern how to die in explore a dungeon. Time, spells, food, arrows - light -  are all limited and requires careful tracking.  Even at individual tables that don't follow Encumbrance rules or and lack magic there are finite resources baked into any game that has combat - hit points.  These may have different names and may drain attributes instead but attributes themselves are a limited resource if your think about it. No matter how your particular game is configured, part of what makes games games is limited resources because that's part of what defines risk.  

"You think you dissect me with this blunt little tool?"

    For the most part games have dealt with physical resources.  Some have attempted to quantify abstracts and mental states with such measures as "willpower" and "sanity" which have are problematic in and of themselves.

    Ive seen a few attempts at expanding what 'Inventory' means, such as in Knave, and Mausritter where spells are on/in individual runestones or grimoires.  These are still a physical items, however.

    What if everything was in Inventory? Not just your stuff, but your friends, your memories - everything?


    In keeping with my commitment to put everything on index cards in an analog database, I've started writing up this rules system with a summary that can fit on a 5x8 inch card:

  • You have three SAVES, MIND, BODY, and SPIRIT.  

  • When you face a choice and have something to lose, you make a SAVING

    THROW.  If you roll under your Save, you succeed.  If you don’t, you face

    the Consequences.

  • You have a number of SLOTS equal to your Save values. The Slots make 

    up an INVENTORY. Each Save has its own Inventory.

  • Inventories hold RESOURCES.  Resources help solve problems, or are 

    good in a Conflict.

  • Empty slots represent INSIGHTS (MIND), ACTIONS (BODY), and FAVORS 


  • Each Save also has a PROTECTION:  MORALE (MIN), DODGE (BOD), and 

    REPutation (SPI).

  • CONFLICTS happen when someone or something opposes you.  

    • A Conflict starts with a BOD Save to avoid Surprise. All opposing 

      parties (not individuals) roll and the lowest roll wins.  If there is a

       tie, no one is surprised and the party with the highest PHY Save 

      goes first.

    • THERE ARE NO TO-HIT ROLLS. Declare your action and roll for the


    • CONSEQUENCES are measured in points.  They subtract from your 

      character’s Protections, then Resources, then Saves in that order. 

  • For each point you lose from a Save, you take a CONDITION.  You must 

    sacrifice one of your Resources for every Condition you take.  Conditions 

    have specific ways they need to be resolved.  Once the condition is 

    resolved, you get the Save point - and the Resource Slot- back.   

  • If ANY of your Saves drop to zero, you’re finished. Whether  BROKEN 

    (MIND) CRIPPLED (BODY), or OSTRACIZED (SPIRIT), you’re adventuring 

    days are over.

    So, yeah.  That's pretty much it.


    Again, this is a basic summary of the entire rules system and is barer than bones.  But I feel like just what I have here implies some of the depth I'm going for. For example:

  • The rules imply equality to physical, psychological, and social conflicts.  They all use the same rules for resolving conflict, and the consequences of any type of conflict can end your adventure.
  • You don't need math to track your inventory - your slots are your slots.  Thanks to using cards, you can physically hold your items, skills, and social contacts - and the rules for using them -  in your hands at the table.
  • Empty slots are still useful and help refine the character.  Fill your body inventory and you're strong, but leave open slots for Actions and you're fast.  Insights would mean your wise, and Favors can be seen as valuing others less for their friendship and more for what they can do for you.
  • Every point of Consequences that causes a stat to drop takes a slot of inventory away, and fills it with a Condition.  If you don't have any empty slots, you'll have to choose one of your Resources to give up until you can resolve the Condition. 

    The system is called SACRIFICES for a reason.

    The resource cards really add to the play experience for me.  Like many Odd hacks, my Conflict system pares back the procedure just to the interesting decisions: Do I fight?  Do I keep fighting?  But the cards-

    There have been studies that show people spend less when paying in cash.  The physical act of handing over money makes people much more mindful of their spending.  By requiring players to actually hand over their Resources when they take a Condition, actually having to choose which of their finite resources to sacrifice, Inventory become a real thing, and the consequences of the players' choice become tangible.

    And that is another part of what makes games games. Meaningful choices that players care about.

 * * *

    We're going to be breaking down and expanding on the ideas in the rules summary in coming weeks, but before that we'll introduce the third pillar of Project NEPTUNE - the one that will allow my work on space travel and combat to be used with multiple systems and franchises.

    Stay tuned.




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